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This project was designed to assist pastors and members of declining congregations in the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod address membership loss and then realize a statistically verifiable increase within three years. Risen Savior Lutheran Church, located in Byron, IL, eighty-eight miles west of Chicago, was the test congregation. Byron is a modern, urban community with a population of 3,753. The congregation experienced the sudden resignation of its first full-time pastor in 2014 after serving twenty-five months. Beginning as a mission in 2005, it slowly grew to a membership high of sixty-two in 2013 and then began to decline not only membership, but also worship attendance and revenue. After relocating three times in its brief history, it remains served by part-time pastors who offer only a Sunday sermon.
Walking alongside the leadership and part-time pastors, the facilitator developed a relationship of trust to benefit the congregation’s ministry throughout the community. Beginning with the creation of a healthy environment to stop declining membership the facilitator studied the congregation. This included church history, demographics, consultation with current leadership, the former full-time pastor, and pastors who served on a limited basis.
Pertinent literature, both theological and biblical, was identified for a doctrinal framework that accounts for the confessional subscription of a Lutheran Church Missouri Synod congregation, as well as the scriptural practices and change dynamics that shape member congregations. Common practices of healthy parishes, as well as a Lutheran understanding of healthy worship provided for the goal and plan for implementation. To implement the desired change, significant training, mentoring and expository preaching are vital. Reversing the statistical decline of the test congregation involves numerous volunteers, as well as the cooperation of the pastor and other leaders. An evaluation following field-testing will lead to replication additional declining congregations.
Content Reader: Randy Rowland, DMin
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Acton, Thomas R., "Toward Healthier Congregations in the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod" (2016). Doctor of Ministry Projects. 255.